Make ’em Talk

As is often the case, I like creating self-imposed projects. If I don’t have to leave the house to do that, all the better. Mostly, I impose these things on myself as a means to learn a process or bit of software. Or, I’m just curious about the outcome… or, if I can even accomplish the challenge. In this case, I rediscovered software I’d purchased about a year ago and thought I’d see if I could attempt something interesting (for myself, at least). I love old photographs… and there’s no better place to explore such things than the Library of Congress. The software I’d rediscovered was CrazyTalk7, which allows one (in theory) to make a still image or drawing ‘talk.’ A big promise, I know. So, I grabbed a few images of people in the public domain and imported it into CrazyTalk. Mostly, it worked reasonably well. But, I found that full images (showing the surroundings around the person) made THEM move and made those surroundings move. So, I trimmed out the person from their surroundings and added ‘key green’ around them. Using green would allow me to key them against another background image later. The plan, then, was to create green around the ‘people’ in the images… animate their ‘talking’ within CrazyTalk… then, place them into Final Cut Pro X.

Lady with Bow

After keying out the green, I’d place another environment behind them for the final illusion. To add to that illusion, I’d add movement… very much like a tracking shot whereby the camera moves in toward (or away) the character. On a separate level in Final Cut Pro I’d move the background a bit less (because it’s to look further away). Starting with that background in one focus level, I’d change that level of focus as I moved in or out. Add to that, an overlay of smoke or fog, and you’ve got the makings of a still image(s) coming to life. For the audio, I used a recording of William Faulkner as he spoke during his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950 (my birth year, fyi). As I cut from character to character, that same voice would continue… humanity, if you will, speaking the words of one man. Yes, a lot of work… and more time spent than usual for my own self-imposed projects (four days, rather than the usual one). A labor of love, despite the quality inequities. The final video is here…

Speaking for Faulkner from Musser on Vimeo.

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